November is National Adopt a Senior Dog Month

senior pets, Terra & FrazierFor the last several years, animal lovers have marked November as National ‘Adopt a Senior Dog Month.’ There are around 6-7 million dogs and cats living in US shelters each year and many are considered “senior” or “older adoptable” pets. Animals with just an average of just 25% of their lives left are considered senior. Dogs that are age seven and older are also often called “senior.” On social media, this month is also promoted as #AdoptaSeniorPetMonth, #adoptaseniordog, and #adoptaseniorpet. In my opinion, every month is a good time to adopt an older shelter senior animal!

And here are just a few reasons why…

    1. Adopting a senior dog saves a life.
    Unfortunately, too many dogs wind up getting euthanized when they find their way to a shelter. And for the most part, it’s the younger animals that usually are picked first for adoption. Sadly, the older dogs are more likely to be euthanized before younger dogs.

    2. A senior dog has a more established personality.
    If you depending upon your first impression as to whether that shelter dog will be a great match, what you see is not always what you get. A dog’s personality can change dramatically over the course of first development years. With a senior dog, they have most likely settled into the kind of behavior and personality they will exhibit throughout their lives.

    3. Senior dogs come with prior training.
    Looking to skip the tiresome potty-training phase and skip right to the good stuff. With senior dogs, most are already house broken and know the rules. they will probably also understand basic commands and be well beyond the teething stage. and that means potentially few torn up pillows, tissues, and anything else a young pup can get a hold of.

    4. Senior dogs can make fast adjustments

    Unlike puppies, most older animals have already adjusted to living in packs or families. Just like in human circles where introducing a new baby into the situation can cause a lot of chaos, puppies can have similar effects. However, most older dogs demand less attention and remain more flexible to new schedules or environments.

    5. You can still teach an old dog a new trick.
    Despite the old adage, senior pets are still very capable of learning basic commands or even show tricks. In fact, with the added maturity of an older helps it be more patient and even attentive once it has grown out of that rambunctious stage. As long as your pet still responds to the promise of treats or positive reinforcements, then most any owner with enough practice can teach their pet to sit, stay, heel, even shake hands/paws.

    6. Senior dogs are not necessarily problem dogs.
    Keep in mind that most shelter animals have found themselves in that situation not due to any behavioral problems, but due to other factors. Those might include stray animals who grew up on their own, dogs who have gotten separated from their families due to natural disasters, the death of their caretakers, families no longer financially able to care for a pet, or drastic changes in a family’s living situation which require giving up their pet. Unfair as it may be, an older dog may find itself begging for a new family to take it in – and having to compete with the newer shinier models at the shelter.

    7. A senior dog may be the best fit for your time commitment.
    For some people, committing the next 12-16 years of their life may feel a bit overwhelming. Or they might even see an older, slower animal as more complimentary to their pace in life. The Golden Years for both dog and human can be among the most rewarding of times in one’s life.


I have two wonderful seniors that I’ve adopted from Peaceable Kingdom Animal Shelter. Terra was adopted at age 10, three and one half years ago, and is still going strong. When I first met her, I learned that she had been very depressed in the shelter after having lived their for nearly six months. When we took her home, she immediately perked up and enjoyed romping around our big yard with the other dogs. She came fully trained, friendly and calm.

Frazier was eleven when I adopted him. He was scheduled to be euthanized due to failing health. I took him home as a hospice dog. That was a year and a half ago. But his health has improved and he has no major issues!

Both my seniors are active, happy dogs. They are well-trained and well-adjusted. They had both come from homes where they had lived their whole lives. Sadly their owners were both elderly and could no longer care for them.

Senior dogs have so much to give. There are so many older animals waiting in shelters. PLEASE consider sharing your home with a special senior, you will get so much love and happiness in return! If you are looking for place to start in your area, check out the ASPCA’s Pet Shelter Database.


Check out the following heart-warming video “Inside a Dog Retirement Home” from National Geographic:

Nearly two-dozen dogs are spending their golden years at House with a Heart Senior Pet Sanctuary. Sher Polvinale and a team of volunteers at this Gaithersburg, Maryland, home spare no expense and care for the dogs’ every need—from washing and feeding to medications and vet visits.

Facts about U.S. Animal Shelters: [source: ASPCA]

  • Approximately 6.5 million companion animals enter U.S. animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, approximately 3.3 million are dogs and 3.2 million are cats. We estimate that the number of dogs and cats entering U.S. shelters annually has declined from approximately 7.2 million in 2011. The biggest decline was in dogs (from 3.9 million to 3.3 million).
  • Each year, approximately 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized (670,000 dogs and 860,000 cats). The number of dogs and cats euthanized in U.S. shelters annually has declined from approximately 2.6 million in 2011. This decline can be partially explained by an increase in the percentage of animals adopted and an increase in the number of stray animals successfully returned to their owners.
  • Approximately 3.2 million shelter animals are adopted each year (1.6 million dogs and 1.6 million cats).
  • About 710,000 animals who enter shelters as strays are returned to their owners. Of those, 620,000 are dogs and only 90,000 are cats.

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